Happiness and Success: Why You Need to Lower Your Expectations

We label everything that happens in our life into two categories: Good or Bad

When we succeed in our businesses, careers, jobs, creative projects, studies, or relationships, we believe it’s good. No doubt it is. But when we fail at them, we convince ourselves that it’s bad — a bad experience.

In other words, when our expectations meet our reality, we feel happy or successful. But when it didn’t, we feel the opposite.

The worst part? We think it’s a bad thing.

Here are a few examples:

  • You just owned a house, yet you feel dissatisfied that it’s not really the house you’ve been dreaming of (damn).
  • You just landed a job, yet you feel disappointed — the salary isn’t that much compared to your high school friend who is now earning millions.
  • You’ve been in a romantic relationship for a year, yet you feel something’s missing — your partner is becoming unattractive; not being responsible; not working harder; not loving or supportive like he or she used to be; and so on.
  • You finally made it as one of your school’s top students, yet you feel frustrated not being the brightest of all.

This happens because we want things to match — or perhaps exceed — our expectations. And I can confidently say that it’s one of the reasons we’re often dissatisfied in almost everything we experience in life.

So instead of being happy (and content) with what we have, we feel the opposite.

What should we do?

Happiness and Success

First, it’s important to understand that happiness and success isn’t always about being rich or glamorous or fun or new. They can mean different things for every person.

Note: I’m no happiness or success expert. I don’t know everyone’s life. And I have lots and lots to learn. But one thing I know is certain:

Our happiness or success is always subjective.

I derive my happiness from doing the things that matter to me. And when I’m doing it, I consider myself successful.

Maybe, your definition is different. Maybe it’s more of a business thing. Maybe it’s supporting your family. Or maybe it’s taking risks and traveling the world. Whatever. The bottomline is that, we have different definitions. And it’s crucial that we know what it is.

But let’s say you knew it, yet still feel unhappy about the outcome for some reasons. What the hell is wrong?

The Solution: Lower Your Expectations

That’s it. It’s probably because you’re expecting too much. You need a little change in perspective.

Lower your expectations. It’s not hard. You can do it anytime. And it’s free.

When you lower your expectations:

  • It’s easier to notice even the tiniest improvement in yourself, your works, your community, or your business.
  • It’s easier to appreciate the outcome of your family vacations, creative projects, studies, relationships, and so on.
  • It’s easier to be surprised, be impressed, or be fascinated.
  • It’s easier to laugh even at the silliest jokes, appreciate even the cheapest items, and enjoy even the simplest things in life.

I bet you’ve heard many clichés about expectations such as, “Expectations are premeditated resentments,” and “Expectation vs reality.

It always intrigues me how most of these clichés ring true. If you notice, the common pattern is that:

When the reality of our lives is better than we expected, we are happy. And when the reality is worse than our expectations, we are unhappy.

Again, one solution is to lower our expectations. Rather than expecting things to be perfect, expect imperfections. Rather than expecting more, expect less. Rather than expecting no circumstances, expect more to come.

This way, you’re being proactive, not reactive.

Or maybe, maybe, don’t expect anything at all. Ah, yes. That will do.

I love what author James Altucher wrote in The Most Important Thing Willy Wonka Ever Said:

“The way to get magic is to keep expectations so low that almost everything you do and see exceeds them.

To always remember that happiness is reality divided by expectations. I can’t often change my reality, but I can easily, this second, lower my expectations to almost nothing.”

Let’s drill this idea into our heads:

“Keep expectations so low that almost everything you do and see exceeds them.”

If this isn’t life-changing, then I don’t know what it is.


PS: If you find value in this, check out “Your Standards Are Making You Miserable.”

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Jade Panugan

Some interesting questions about life and human behavior: What if there's no money? Why we often feel the urge to prove that we're right and others are wrong? Why we react to things beyond our control? Why we hate? Why it's hard to be content? I don't have all the answers, do you? Let's chat.